The Red Sox signaled their intent to reclaim the American League East at all costs on Tuesday, when they reportedly inked lefthanded ace David Price to a record-setting seven-year contract worth $217 million.
The signing, which is pending a physical, was first reported by The Boston Globe. Price’s contract makes the 30-year-old the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history. The deal, according to Fox Sports, also includes an out clause after three seasons with no deferred money.
Price’s new deal exceeds the seven-year, $210-million deal that the Nationals gave to Max Scherzer before the 2015 season, the previous record for free-agent pitchers. It also eclipses the $215-million extension that the Dodgers awarded to Clayton Kershaw.
At $31 million, Price’s contract is tied with Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera for highest all-time in terms of average annual value, just past the average of $30.7 million per year that Kershaw will earn with his extension.
For that staggering price tag, the Red Sox imported the top-of-the-rotation pitcher that they have long coveted.
One of baseball’s most dominant pitchers, Price positioned himself for a payday this summer. After his trade from the Tigers to the Blue Jays just before the trade deadline, Price went 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA while helping Toronto to the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
Price is a five-time All-Star and winner of the 2012 American League Cy Young Award. He’s 104-56 with a 3.09 ERA in eight big-league seasons with the Rays, Tigers and Blue Jays.
The move is the boldest yet by newly installed Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski, who has a history with Price. While running the Tigers, it was Dombrowski who acquired Price in a 2014 trade, and then sent him away to the Blue Jays last summer.
Price’s contract will have implications all throughout baseball, including in New York.
The Yankees now face a stiffer challenge with the rival Red Sox, who boast a young core of talented players. Price’s presence only solidifies a starting rotation that had a desperate need of a front man.
The Red Sox had already swung a major move earlier this offseason, acquiring lockdown closer Craig Kimbrel from the Padres for a group of highly touted prospects including Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Carlos Asuaje and Logan Allen.
Meanwhile, the contract validates the Mets’ hesitance to deal from their stable of young arms. If they stay on their current trajectories, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard could one day be in line for major free-agent deals, perhaps turning up the pressure to extend long-term contracts before they reach free agency.
In an immediate sense, Price’s signing also figures to inject some life into baseball’s hot stove season. Price’s contract, along with Jordan Zimmermann’s five-year, $110-million deal with the Tigers, gives teams a more defined sense of what it will cost to acquire top-shelf pitching.
As the best pitcher remaining on the open market, free agent Zack Greinke will be the primary beneficiary. The Cubs, Giants, Cardinals and Dodgers were reportedly players for Price’s services.
Now, they would presumably shift their focus toward Greinke, who is coming off an historic season for the Dodgers. The righthander went 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA in 32 starts, finishing second to Jake Arrieta in the NL Cy Young Award voting. Free-agent righty Johnny Cueto also figures to benefit as value of pitching on the open market continues to increase.
Price’s signing could also spur more activity with the rest of the pitching market. Other available arms include Jeff Samardzija, Mike Leake, Wei-Yin Chen, Scott Kazmir and Yovani Gallardo.
The most lucrative contracts in baseball history:
$325M Giancarlo Stanton2015-27
$217M David Price2016-22
STARTING PITCHERS – AVERAGE ANNUAL VALUE
HIGHEST PAID – AVERAGE ANNUAL VALUE
SOURCE: Cot’s Baseball Contracts